Currently Florida has nearly 1.7 million residents who cannot vote in state or federal elections because of a felony conviction. This means 1 out of every 10 people in Florida aren't allowed to vote.
Florida is just one of four states that does this. We're not talking about serial killers here, these are nonviolent felons who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation and paid restitution, and they still can't vote.
Here in Florida, 21 percent of the state's African American population is not allowed to vote
, which is four times that of other Floridians. The reasons for this are many, but post-Civil War segregation laws and the War on Drugs, specifically on low-level drug users
, didn't help.
According to Politifact
, "research also suggests that when black and white people engage in the same illegal activity and have the same criminal history, black people are more likely to be arrested, more likely to face tougher charges and more likely to receive longer sentences than whites."
At the moment, the only way for an ex-felon in Florida can have their voting rights restored is through a complicated and usually very expensive Executive Clemency process, which rarely ever happens.
According to the Miami Herald
, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has only restored voting rights to about 2,300 cases since being voted into office in 2011. This is significantly less than former Gov. Charlie Christ, who restored rights to 55,315 ex-offenders, and former Gov. Jeb Bush, who restored rights in 76,736 cases.
The fact of the matter is, restoring someone's rights to vote (someone who has paid their debt to society) shouldn't depend on how expensive their lawyer is, or whoever the governor is at the moment.
Image via florida.ourstates.org
from StayWoke, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and Floridians for a Fair Democracy currently has nearly 500,000 of the 766,000 needed to put an initiative on the ballot in 2018.
"This is rooted in fairness. Once a person has served their time, has paid their debt to society, they should be given the ability to have their voices heard," said Desmond Meade of Floridians for a Fair Democracy to NSF
. "Over 95 percent of the country agrees with this, but Florida is an outlier. This is an effort to really get Florida in line with what's going on across the country."